HISTORY

Beginnings

In 1984, Chicago artist and community leader Tatsu Aoki founded Innocent Eyes and Lenses (IEL) in response to the need for an organization that was dedicated to presenting Asian American artists and programs that were relevant to the community. Since then, IEL, an Illinois-based non-profit organization, has been a leading force in presenting the Asian American experience through the arts in Illinois.

A New Name

After 20 years of working as IEL, we made the decision to change our name from Innocent Eyes and Lenses to Asian Improv aRts Midwest in 2004. This change was made in order to reflect the community that IEL has been serving since its inception as well as to recognize the partnership that has been established with the San Francisco-based Asian Improv aRts. Founded by musician and community activist Francis Wong, Asian Improv aRts has been a leader in building community through the Asian American cultural arts on the West Coast for two decades and we are honored to be a part of the Asian Improv family.

AIRMW has had tremendous success in connecting artists, community organizations and the city’s cultural institutions and has presented programs featuring world-class artistry while remaining rooted in the Chicago Asian American community. AIRMW has collaborated with and/or received support from organizations that include the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC), the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Illinois Arts Council, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Boeing Corporation, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago Foundation and Meet The Composer among many others.

Timeline

2001
May 9

Collaboration with the Japanese American Service Committee and other organizations

Collaboration with the Japanese American Service Committee and other organizations

IEL collaborates with organizations including the Japanese American Service Committee to present “Reminiscing in Swingtime – Japanese Americans in American Popular Music, 1926-1960” at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

1996
September 13

Annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival

Annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival

Produced the Annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival featuring artists that include pianist Jon Jang, multiple percussionist Max Roach, saxophonist Francis Wong, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, multiple percussionist Dr. Anthony Brown, pianist/vocalist Yoko Noge, violinist Jason Kao Hwang, saxophonist Fred Anderson, multi-instrumentalist Mwata Bowden, pipa artist Wu Man komungo artist Jin Hi Kim and percussionist Susie Ibarra. Performances presented at venues that include the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Cultural Center and the HotHouse.

April 12

Produced the Asian American Music Compilation CD, Sounds Like 1996, with support from Arts Midwest.

1995
April 12

Asian American Jazz Players Series at the Bop Shop

Flyer- Bobshop presents Asian American Jazz Players Series

Asian American Jazz Players Series at the Bop Shop, Chicago, IL: an 8 week performance series featuring Asian American musicians and marking the first Chicago performance of West Coast musicians Francis Wong and Glenn Horiuchi.

1993
April 12

KIOTO Tatsu Aoki

KIOTO CD Jacket Front Image

San Francisco-based Asian Improv Records releases Tatsu Aoki’s album Kioto, marking the first collaboration between Chicago and San Francisco’s Asian American music leaders.

1988
May 12

Jikken Eiga

IEL Flyer

Produced Jikken Eiga: The Annual Japanese Experimental Film Tour, presented in up to 10 cities nationwide every year.

1984
January 12

Innocent Eyes and Lenses

Innocent Eyes and Lenses

Chicago musician and community leader Tatsu Aoki founds Innocent Eyes and Lenses (IEL), an Illinois-based non-profit organization